ORAU Awards $25,000 for Annual Extreme Classroom Makeover Competition

Source: ORAU | Release | MArch 24, 2022

ORAU awards $25,000 to Stacey Whaley at Northview Primary STEM School, and Elaina Fields at Claxton Elementary receives runner-up and Viewers’ Choice awards

Stacey Whaley encourages students at Northview Primary STEM School in Kodak to imagine a world of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) beyond the limitations of the classroom.

On Tuesday, March 22, ORAU surprised Whaley with the announcement that she was the winner of ORAU’s Extreme Classroom Makeover and will receive the grand prize of $25,000 for new classroom technology.

ORAU chose Whaley, who teaches third grade at Northview Primary, as the winner of this year’s Extreme Classroom Makeover after reviewing the video she submitted that creatively demonstrates her school’s need for STEM resources. She created mockups of the technology she hopes to buy, including virtual reality glasses and controllers, digital microscopes and iPads, out of every day objects like plastic sheets, cardboard tubes and paper towels.

“I have never been so surprised in my life,” Whaley said following the award announcement. “I had no idea that this is what we were coming in here for. It’s the most amazing surprise. I cannot describe it with words.”

Whaley thought she was going into the school’s gym for a meeting about the evening’s STEM Night event. Instead, she was surprised by wild cheers from her colleagues and a check presentation made by Jim Vosburg, ORAU senior vice president and director of the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education.

“Part of our mission is to strengthen America’s scientific workforce. That mission begins in schools like Northview,” Vosburg said. “If the technology purchased through Extreme Classroom Makeover sparks a love for STEM subjects in Stacey’s students, our investment is completely worthwhile.”

Elaina Fields, a third grade teacher at Claxton Elementary School in Anderson County, was named runner up in the Extreme Classroom Makeover and received a check for $5,000 on Thursday, March 24. She received an additional $2,500 as winner of the competition’s Viewers’ Choice Award for her video submission.

Fields is a first-year teacher who jumped at the opportunity to enter the Extreme Classroom Makeover. While she didn’t win the grand prize, she is thrilled to be named runner up.

As for winning the Viewers’ Choice Award, Fields said the honor “makes me feel loved that so many people took the time to support the work we did to create the video.”

This is the 13th time ORAU has presented the Extreme Classroom Makeover as part of the company’s ongoing efforts to strengthen STEM education throughout East Tennessee. ORAU launched Extreme Classroom Makeover in 2008. Since then, ORAU has awarded $460,500 to area STEM educators. Prizes have been awarded every year except 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

STEM teachers of third through tenth grade students that work for an East Tennessee public school within 50 miles of Oak Ridge are eligible to apply to ORAU’s annual competition. Applicants are asked to submit a video that creatively explains their need for technology in the classroom and how this technology will improve the educational experience of their students.


ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of 152 major institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education for the U.S. Department of Energy. To learn more, visit www.orau.org.